Burgess Needle’s poetry has appeared in: Blackbox Manifold (UK), Concho River Review, Boston Literary Magazine and Santa Fe Literary Review. Fiction: Connotation Press and Black Market Review. Collections: EVERY CROW IN THE BLUE SKY (Diminuendo Press). THAI COMIC BOOKS (Big Table Publishing). SIT AND CRY: Two Years In the Land of Smiles, a Memoir by Wren Song Press). The author lives in Ripton, Vermont with a hazel-eyed woman of wit, charm and beauty.
DO I WANT TO KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW?
“The cancer has metastasized.”
The peculiar rhythm of the doctor’s voice.
I could not help hearing the meter of his words.
“The cancer has metastasized.”
He was talking about my mother.
When in times uncertain, turn we must to prayer.
Do you hear the iambics?
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes.
Stop it! Hear the doctor. Pay attention.
One year ago, when she still smiled easily,
I heard the verdict and kissed her.
Then, we went on. Some of us back to school.
Myself, back to work. The old man, moping about.
Disappearing on occasion.
Like when he’d leave on a shuttle for Atlantic City.
On his own.
“Your mother’s too slow,” he told me.
“Why do you get so angry at her?”
Those were the questions I usually swallowed.
“Yeah, I know, she’s a saint!” he coughed and spit.
“Well, try living with a saint.”
Then, the call came, echoing through my acacia tree.
I’d been listening to Bob Marley.
The new word on the line was hospice.
My sisters knew all the failed magical
incantations: angiogenesis inhibitors was one
that stuck with me as I thought of Marley responding,
“It’s a ponder, mon!”
Dutifully, we trooped in and drowned in her love.
We, her greatest accomplishment. Her words.
Then, back to the house for tuna fish and potato salad.
The old man was out somewhere.
I remember him saying, “The only thing I hate
more than a sign saying Home Cooked Food,
is the entrance to a hospital.”
Alone, the next morning, I walked up to the desk.
“How is Mrs. N doing?” I asked.
“And, you are…?” the thin-lipped nurse asked.
I gave my name. She focused and I was drilled
by the hate from her eyes.
“It’s her son!” another voice whispered.
“Oh, I’m sorry…” abruptly, all smiles.
“I thought you were him!”
Easy to see them all breaking out into reggae song:
“…thought you were him, honey…thought you were him!”
And, I wondered, fuck it all, mon, what don’t I know?
WHAT A DENSE AND MIGHTY FLUX IS TIME
Within a week the cows would return,
but, for the moment, we clutched
chilled fingers on a high New York meadow,
prepared for the Gray Fox Music Festival.
Blue grass night and day!
Sloping down our line-of-sight
The musicians emerged
instruments in place, guitar, banjo,
mandolin and fiddle already tuned
As we were turned – had been tuned
so many decades to be there
on that meadow as we’d been years past
with The Charles River Valley Boys when they
warmed their fingers over the flame
of a Cambridge stove’s gas light.
Was it the banjo player who later became
an award-winning biologist?
What a dense and mighty flux
is time and our seat on its surface.
The last evening, as if Christmas had arrived early,
luminarias were released each carrying
a votive candle – distracting even the stars.
A Chinese emperor some millennium gone
gestured one soft evening,
the fine silk of his robe barely folding
with his movement –
A passing acknowledgement of the sight
Above lighter-than-air lanterns
Of delicate balsa and fine paper aloft
glowing through calligraphic lettering
by one slim flame –
All the floating whisper of pink light
hovering above his majesty
beneath the same sun the same moon
As we two so very many years later
on dewed grass, some borrowed farm land
we, the emperor, that long-ago biologist –
By China’s southern shore women’s
voices arose from locked quarters
as musical scales distinct from
our own as an elegant trogon’s
Cough from an ordinary dove’s coo –
Linked were we are we
by this fragile common
web called music –
Then, the fiddler, prancing as if on
shoes aflame, flung about his
strung out notes as high above
paper lanterns floated with
Their own heat as our past licked
and blew hot breath on our present –
our frozen-in-time life we hold so dear!
LOVE IN SENSUAL SPACE: A SESTINA
Applaud to see opposing bodies kiss
Sensing an opening of carnal vision
They look to all their inner space
And there within the briny azure
Of the sea and falling comets
They declare, This is the very flesh of love!
A rising pulse impacts our vision
Though trapped in sensual space
Far above the hot sky’s azure
Where blind lovers see comets.
A charming concept called love
Links every tumescent sigh and kiss
To the first rippling moan from mouth’s space.
Ride above the damp ceiling of azure,
the very orbits of libidinous comets
To see turgid electrons strangely twitch in love.
Float over oceans. Dream of a torrid kiss
So deep it overrides culture’s vision.
But, for now, consider pure azure.
Track tears shimmering like comets
Lubricating the very skin of love,
Love that preens on a feather bed holding a kiss.
Snare, for an instant, a romantic vision
Before it careens through sweaty space.
Careful! Be alert for seminal comets
As well as the longing memory of love
That vibrates from every moist, broken kiss.
Ignore each other’s pause with a joined vision
Slip through the interstice of yielding space
Away from rules, even God’s azure.
Your souls are prisms reflecting every color of love
Body to body each holds the imprint of a kiss.
Madly clutch your last pulsing vision
Of you marooned, orgasmic in space
Away from green grass, red ribbons or even azure
Sated at last on your own falling comet.
Kisses guide you to the throbbing vision
Space the path to heaven’s azure
Comets hurl you back to love.